Charlie Davies May Repair Career, Image With D.C. United
On Tuesday afternoon, D.C. United confirmed a morning report from The Washington Post's incomparable Steven Goff that Davies and his French club, FC Sochaux, were considering a season-long loan.
Davies is expected to join United in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday, when he will commence "a week-long evaluation period, which will include training and game time with the first team and a full medical evaluation," according to the MLS club.
D.C. said the terms of the the loan "have already been negotiated."
If Davies proves himself and the move happens, it will generate a fair bit of publicity for United and MLS, while giving the former U.S. national team starter the opportunity to salvage both his career and his image.
His commitment to doing the former has been inspiring. His interest in the latter remains unknown.
Whether or not things work out in Florida, a loan for Davies is a necessity -- he has failed to see the field for Sochaux's first team and has made the club's 18-man match day roster just once. He has been playing for the reserve side, however, and prior to Tuesday there had been mixed messages from Sochaux about its interest in sending Davies out on loan.
Signing Davies would be a gamble, but not an unreasonable one for a team in need of a spark and a fan base beleaguered by three years of losing and an intractable stadium situation. There will be curiosity and enthusiasm on East Capitol Street, for sure.
And while United's technical staff surely will be looking very closely into whether Davies is fit, capable and worth their time and investment, American soccer fans should be equally as cautious and critical. There must be a separation between hoping he continues to recover from his injuries and lionizing him for doing so. There must be a separation between evaluating Davies the soccer player and Davies the person.
Why does Davies the person matter? Because he has represented the United States and wants to do so again. A professional athlete taking money from a for-profit franchise does not necessarily have an obligation to be a role model, or even a good person.
But make no mistake -- when you wear your country's colors, you are viewed as an ambassador. That was very evident at the World Cup, where the effort, commitment, perspective and demeanor exhibited by Bob Bradley's team was consistently noticed and appreciated.
On the character front, Davies appears to have some work to do. He certainly paid heavily for his October 2009 decision to break national team curfew and go out in Washington, DC, and for his decision to get into a car with a woman, Maria Espinoza, who had been drinking.
Everyone makes mistakes, and Davies deserves no further punishment. But he didn't seem to grow much as a result of the incident. His consistent tweeting and promises of recovery throughout last spring were an irritant and a distraction, to the point where Bradley issued a rare public criticism during his pre-World Cup training camp in Princeton.
Last fall, as the anniversary of the accident approached, Davies was pulled over by police near Sochaux for driving nearly 125 mph. It later emerged that an FCSM teammate actually was driving, but that Davies switched seats with him inside the tinted vehicle because the teammate feared having his license suspended. What first looked like reckless and bitterly ironic behavior turned out to be just Davies lying to the cops.
On the one-year anniversary of his accident, Davies tweeted:
"It has been one year to the day and I give thanks to the lord and all of you for supporting me throughout! It means a lot. We are blessed!"
Oct. 13 would have been the ideal time to extend a public and kind word to the family of the woman who was killed in the crash, Ashley Roberta. It's possible he was forbidden to do so by his attorneys since the case against Espinoza was still open. Or perhaps Davies preferred to make it about himself and the devotion he enjoys from both God and his fans.
None of these things make Davies a bad person, but they do call his maturity into question. Perception is important -- it's often reality, after all -- and it certainly may impact the reception Davies receives, his future with Bradley and the national team and his legacy.
Davies, who will turn 25 this summer, has worked tirelessly to rehabilitate his body. He shouldn't forget to devote some of his energy to erasing any doubts that might linger about his character. If he does come to MLS and join D.C. United, everyone with a stake in American soccer should hope he seizes the opportunity to do both.